If there was one key moment in the Dallas Cowboys' 31-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was in the first quarter. Dallas had driven the field on the opening possession but stalled when Tony Romo overthrew Jason Witten, settling for a routine 54-yard Dan Bailey field goal. Jacksonville marched 80 yards and scored a touchdown. Blake Bortles and Denard Robinson looked very impressive. Trailing 7-3, Dallas was unable to sustain anything and had to punt the ball back to Jacksonville.
It was a chance for the young Jaguars team to make a statement. If they could have built on their lead, they might have shaken the Cowboys, already reeling from the two-game losing streak they were on. But Ace Sanders muffed the ball, Dallas recovered on the Jaguars' 6-yard line, and three plays later Romo had a classic scramble-and-find-Jason Witten two-yard touchdown pass. From there, the Cowboys would never trail.
That sequence seemed to put the momentum permanently on the Cowboys' side. Dallas went on to put together the win. Romo showed he was able to play well, accumulating 225 yards and three touchdowns by halftime. Dez Bryant didn't catch a ball in the first quarter, but more than made up for it by setting a team record for most yards receiving in a single quarter in the second, going for 158 yards and two long, physically dominating touchdowns. DeMarco Murray had a strong day with exactly 100 yards, but the run of the game was made by Joseph Randle. Murray had just had a very nice 21-yard run, but his facemask was full of Wembley turf. He went out, and Randle took the next handoff 40 yards for a touchdown.
Defensively, the Cowboys had to play without Rolando McClain, who was active but did not see the field. It didn't matter, as Anthony Hitchens had another very solid performance filling in, including a stuff on a fourth and one play in the third quarter. There were multiple sacks, including a Crawford sack. However, it was not made by Tyrone Crawford, who was inactive due to injury, but by London-born Jack Crawford.
With a three score lead going into the fourth quarter, things did become a little sloppy. Dallas gave up a safety for a holding call against Kyle Wilber in the end zone on a punt. But this game was decided well before that happened.
If there is anything to question about the Cowboys in this game, it probably is why the coaches left Romo in until halfway through the fourth quarter. He took a sack just prior to the safety that was probably unnecessary. After that, the team wised up and let Weeden go back in to work on his game. He competed his only pass attempt for a first down.
The main objectives were clearly accomplished for Dallas in London. They got back in the win column and go into the bye week at 7-3. Romo played well and, after a week's rest, should be ready to go for the stretch run to close out the season. Bryant was back with a vengeance. Murray got his ninth 100-yard game of the season. The defense and special teams got three takeaways to win that battle, and there were four sacks, including Brandon Carr's first of his career and one by Cameron Lawrence as the game was winding down. There appears to have been no serious injuries, although Tyler Patmon left the game for X-rays on a knee and ankle.
The final fourteen point margin is a bit deceptive, with the Jaguars scoring their last touchdown against a lot of backup defenders. It was a game where Dallas dominated most of the way, and that was just what the Cowboys needed. Now they can face the last six games of the season, including four NFC East matchups, with a renewed confidence and a rested roster. It was no surprise for the Cowboys to win this one, but it was encouraging to see them do it this easily.